Texting as a Recruiting Tool: How to Use SMS in HR

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SMS texting has become an increasingly popular option among HR professionals looking to fill vacancies. Read on for more information on this practice and how you can use it to improve the hiring process.

Navigating Recruiting Hurdles in HR

As one of the primary functions of an human resources department, recruiting can also be one of the biggest headaches. Spreading the word about a job posting and finding qualified people is usually a simple enough task given the current market, but that doesn't mean that it's any easier to find the right candidate for the position.

If anything, a greater volume of applicants actually makes it harder to conclude a job search. Writing for Work.com, Jason Rogers ranked the ''speed vs. quality'' conundrum as the number one problem facing recruiters, claiming that ''One of the biggest challenges is balancing speed of hire with quality of hire - you want to hire an applicant as fast as possible (most likely to satisfy upper management), but you also want to ensure you get the best quality candidate, which can take time.''

job posting

Incidentally, Rogers ranks outdated recruiting strategies as his number two concern. If you're an HR professional and find yourself struggling to fill positions quickly, you should know about a new recruiting tool that's simultaneously quick, effective and modern: short message service (SMS) texting.

Implementing the SMS Process

If the thought of conducting interviews and conveying important job information via text messages seems a little foreign, that's certainly a natural reaction. While most people think of texting as something young people do to pass the time, the practice has very useful professional applications and can be an extremely effective tool during the recruiting process.

There's a good chance your potential employees know all about texting, as virtual offices and digital commuting is already commonplace. While you won't need to teach them how to text, there are certain strategies you can use to make the process smoother.

Start Strong

People expect text messages to get to the point, so writing a long-winded message will not only eat up time but also risk losing the interest of the recipient. Say what you need to say right off the bat, and don't waste time on a lengthy introduction.

texting

Create Templates

Rather than starting from scratch every time you reach out to an applicant, compose a couple of standard ''canned'' messages that you can copy and paste. Using the same template also reduces the chance of making a typo, which can undermine your credibility.

Keep it Short

More so than emails, text messages are meant to be read and responded to in short order. Limit yourself to a three-sentence maximum. Imagine receiving a paragraph-long text message from an unfamiliar number; how would you feel about that? Short and to the point is the way to go.

Ask for Help

If you're looking for further insights, you can also hire a third party to keep track of important metrics. Companies like TextUs and Canvas offer unique monitoring services and can provide analytical reports about your SMS recruiting efforts and metrics. These companies can be especially helpful if you're having trouble getting the hang of professional texting, as their reports can tell you where you need to improve and what you can do to boost performance.

Avoiding Texting Errors and Issues

Just as important as learning how to best use texting, you'll need to know what practices to avoid.

Consider the Industry & Audience

Text recruiting is still a new enterprise and it has yet to become a standard. For this reason, you need to consider the fact that professionals in certain industries may be more or less welcoming. The healthcare and government sectors, for example, rely heavily on texting due to the speed of the interaction and the nature of their audience. When dealing with an older employee, however, the study above shows that texting may come across as unprofessional and will not be as effective.

Don't Use SMS to Break the Ice

Despite texting's surge in popularity, it's still not the best way to make initial contact with a candidate. When reaching out for the first time, give a call or send an email; save the texting for when you've already built a rapport.

Reject Applicants In a Phone Call - Not a Text

Likewise, if you're going to reject an applicant, text messaging is not the most sensitive way to do it. If a person puts in the time to apply and interview for a position, at least do him or her the honor of calling and delivering the bad news over the phone.

Don't Use Slang or Abbreviations

Just because you're texting, it doesn't mean you should drop a professional tone. Using ''lol'' or ''c u l8r'' to a prospective hire sends the message that you're immature and unprofessional. Use formal business language, just as if you were speaking over the phone or via email.

Use a Work, Not a Personal Phone

When texting with applicants, don't use your own cell phone. It's generally not a good idea to give out your number to strangers, and it only increases the chances of making a communication mistake. Flipping between conversations with an interviewee and a friend can lead to embarrassing ''wrong number'' situations.

Identifying the Benefits of SMS

Now that you understand how to use texting as a tool, it's time to explore why this method works. Plenty of other fields, such as marketing, already use mobile platforms, so let's look at how texting provides an advantage for recruiters in all fields, whether you're in pharmaceuticals, education, or another profession.

Speed

First and foremost, texting is fast. When email was first introduced, it was heralded as the ultimate means of quick communication, but texting surpasses it easily.

Almost everyone, from a millennial to seasoned professional, has his or her phone at all times. Even when you're not using your phone, don't you keep it close by in case something comes up? When you send a candidate a text message, there's a much greater chance that it will be seen and responded to quickly.

Text messages are also much shorter and more straightforward than the average email. Rather than wasting time typing up long messages, a few short sentences will usually do the trick.

Convenience

One of the primary benefits to texting is that people can communicate discreetly as well as quickly.

Taking a phone call isn't necessarily a hassle, but there's no guarantee that you'll get a response. You also need to consider that many of your most qualified applicants will be at work, meaning they'll be unable to step away from their desks and speak to you.

It's much easier to fire off a quick message and get back to work than it is to stop working altogether, so your prospective hire will have an easier time responding. This leads to more productive conversations, which may result in a job offer.

Preference

Another important factor that many employers fail to consider is what method of communication prospective employees want to use. According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, texting is clearly the new standard when it comes to communication.

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed admitted to using texting ''a lot.'' Even more important is the fact that this figure jumped significantly when dealing with younger people. Sixty-eight percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 admitted to using texting the most, and 47 percent in the 30-49-age group said the same. Texting is not only the current preferred method of communication but also the one most likely to be used in the future, according to a survey of younger workers.

young professional

Identifying the Pitfalls of SMS

Of course, if texting were 100 percent effective, it would be the only method recruiters use. Unfortunately, it's not, and if you're not careful, you might scare off qualified applicants. Let's take a look at some of the drawbacks and what you can do to avoid them.

Manners

As mentioned above, texting is not always the most appropriate way to communicate, especially at the beginning and toward the end of the recruiting process. You shouldn't initially reach out to or dismiss someone with a text, meaning that you should be familiar with proper texting etiquette. To brush up on your manners, check out this Study.com texting in the workplace lesson for a refresher on how to conduct yourself over the phone.

Perception

Along with knowing proper etiquette, you need to understand that the people you're contacting may see things differently. Older or more traditional workers may feel that texting is unprofessional, and a request to communicate via this method may turn them off. When you first get in touch with someone, get a sense of his or her feelings about texting. If you get the feeling that he or she doesn't approve, you'll need to pursue another avenue of communication.

After Hours Communication

While texting makes it easy to communicate, it may make it too easy. Some candidates may reach out well after office hours, or on the weekend when you're not in a working mood. Early on, make it clear that you will only be texting during normal 9-5 working hours. If a candidate repeatedly texts you outside of these parameters, simply stop responding until office hours resume. Soon enough, he or she will get the message (no pun intended).

cell phone

Texting is an innovative approach to the recruiting process that can make things much easier from an HR perspective. Using this strategy allows you to reach out more quickly and more effectively to candidates.

By Bill Sands
March 2018
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